Velykoanadolskyi forest was created almost 180 years ago and is the largest artificial forest in Europe. It occupies more than 2.500 hectares, and since 1974 has the status of a nationwide scale.
The forest sea, located in Volnovakha district near Blahodatne village, saturates the territory where industry dominates with healing air. It is called the “green pearl of the steppe”.
Luxuriant alleys and sprawling beams, picturesque ponds and colorful meadows are harmoniously combined here. The “stone women” add additional atmosphere in the courtyard of Velykoanadolskyi forest museum (by the way, the only museum of this profile in Ukraine). In fact, these are not women, but Polovets idols from the time of Dyke Pole, brought by Viktor Graff together with the first shoots. By the way, here is a healing source of radon water, which treats diseases of the cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system and infertility.
The reserve has more than 600 species of plants, of which 37 are protected by a law. As a result of the formation of forest conditions, not only new plants for the steppe appeared here, but also animals.
Velykoanadolskyi forest has gained wide tourist attraction with the construction of the hotel complex “Forest Park”. However, during the hostilities in 2014, the complex suffered significant damage and no longer operates in the pre-war regime. So, the beauty of the forest is now mostly available only to locals.
YuliyaGL/Hromkor Gromada Skhid 11 (20) 2020
On the example of Velykoanadolskyi forest, a native of Ovruch, Volhynian Governorate, Viktor von Graff (Graft) refuted the conclusions of foreign scientists of the time about the impossibility of growing forests in the open steppe.
He was born into the family of an officer, a German by origin, orphaned early, so the community raised money for his admission to the Forestry University in St. Petersburg. Why yesterday’s graduate, lieutenant of the corps of foresters Viktor Graff was sent in 1843 to arrange an artificial forest in the steppe zone of the empire, history is silent. However, he used his purpose with dignity.
Initially, von Graff studied well the experience of afforestation in the arid Azov steppes gained by German colonists. And then sowed the first seeds. Four times the steppe dry winds almost completely destroyed the plantings, but the persistence of the forester eventually gave the desired result. In 23 years, under the leadership of von Graff, 157 hectares of forest were planted, 30 species of trees and shrubs were cultivated.
To preserve the plantation, a family of permanent forest guards was settled, and later Graff adopted 11 serf children, and they became his assistants. As the authorities respected the activities of the young specialist, he was allowed to open a school of rural foresters in Novotroitske village and increase the number of students to forty. In fact, it was then that the foundations of Velykoanadolskyi forest college were laid, for which von Graff did not spare his own money and health.
About people like von Graff, they say: a victim of his own decency. An aristocrat by origin, he lived in a dugout, often had no money for sugar and candles, but never spent meager government funding for his own needs. It is known that he did not even allow himself a vacation until his “green child” became stronger.
“For almost 12 years they roamed like those gypsies; I lived in a village 15 miles from my place of employment in a stuffy damp apartment and experienced the most inhuman hardship”, the founder of steppe afforestation in 1863 wrote. In Velykoanadol his ten-year-old daughter died, his son and wife became seriously ill, and von Graff himself lived only three years after leaving his forest due to incurable diseases.
Orthodox by birth, von Graff was officially a foreigner, but considered himself a Ukrainian, called himself a “Cossack” and a “Khokhol,” and bequeathed an oak tree from Donetsk steppes to be planted on his grave.